The coronavirus pandemic took care of the ceremony, but it didn’t tarnish the award.

Tanya Burbridge, Joe Rogers and Paul Thompson, all instructors with Frankfort Independent Schools, received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Campbellsville University.

A ceremony for the award winners was canceled.

Burbridge, Rogers and Thompson were among 217 teachers from across the state to receive the award. The purpose of the program is to recognize the quality teaching and learning that is taking place in Kentucky school systems. 

Burbridge has taught at Second Street School for 21 years. She works in the Wrap Around program with children ages 3-5.

“It’s like day care, but we teach them,” she said. “They learn to write their names, count to 20. I teach my kids how to count by 10 to 100. They learn their colors.

“They’re with me for half a day, and then for half a day they go to preschool.”

Prior to joining the Wrap Around program, Burbridge worked with special education and the elementary grades.

“I like this better because the kids, you just don’t know what you’re going to get,” she said. “They say the darnedest things. One little boy told his mother they needed to go buy flowers for my family. She asked why and he said there was a car wreck and everyone was killed but Miss Burbridge. His mother told him she thought she would have heard about that.

“One little girl was at home singing and dancing and said she got it from Miss Burbridge. She didn’t get it from me. It wasn’t a bad song or a bad dance, but I don’t sing and I don’t dance like that.”

Burbridge earned her bachelor’s degree at Kentucky State University and is working on a master’s degree in special education at Georgetown College.

She didn’t have to do nontraditional instruction after schools closed in March.

“With my job I had Zoom meetings with students once a week,” Burbridge said, “and I did storytime where the kids could get on Facebook or our website and watch me read a story to them.”

“There’s one little girl that FaceTimes me almost every day and talks and talks. You just miss them. These kids enjoy everything, and they give you a lot of love back.”

Burbridge comes from a family of educators, having two aunts, two cousins and niece who have been teachers.

“It’s just something where I really enjoy working with kids,” she said. “Even when I was little I played school and taught my little dolls. I like giving back to people, giving back to the community, and this is the way I can do it.”

Thompson will begin his 18th year at Second Street in the fall and his second year as a behavioral interventionist.

“I work with kids struggling with behavior in the classroom,” he said. “We work on coping strategies, how to deal with stress.”

Before beginning his current position, Thompson taught social studies in fifth and sixth grades, and he also taught third and fourth grades for four years.

“I’ve been all over the building,” he said. “I’ve been in the elementary setting, the middle school setting. The great thing about this role is when I taught I had about 60 students at every grade level. Now I help 600 kids. I like to be a soft place for kids to land when they’re having a hard time.

“I do miss being in the classroom, having that time with kids each day where you get to know them and they get to know you. Relationships are the cornerstone for any good teacher. You need that with kids to get the basic respect you need to do your job.”

Thompson earned his bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State and master’s degree from Georgetown College. He’s working on his EDS at the University of the Cumberlands.

He is a 1995 graduate of Frankfort High.

“This is more than a job to me,” Thompson said. “I’ve been part of this system since high school. I met my best friends at Frankfort High. I’ve been part of this since I was 14 years old, and for the past 18 years it’s put food on the table. It’s more than a job; it’s my life’s work.”

Rogers, who grew up in the St. Louis area, will be starting his fifth year at Frankfort High this fall.

He’s been an instructional coach for the past year. Prior to that, he taught social studies.

“My wife and I decided to transition to Kentucky five years ago,” Rogers said. “We fell in love with the state, and we really liked Central Kentucky. That was the same year Frankfort was transitioning to project-based learning, and that was very exciting to me.

“That was a big shift in education, and that’s what brought me to Frankfort High.”

Another big shift came this spring when FIS went to NTI.

“We ended the year really strong,” Rogers said. “It helped we had gone to self-directed learning to help students get ready for college. It was our first test with distance learning. It was a big challenge, but it was very exciting how we finished the year. The students came through, and the teachers responded quickly.”

Rogers is a graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there.

“It’s something I really decided in college,” he said about going into education, “but I had some great advice. Do with your life what can do the most good for the most people.”

“I really enjoy it, especially being at Frankfort High.”

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